Pivotal Game 4 between Nashville and Vancouver sees opportunities for both teams

There’s just one playoff game tonight and it’s an important one to determine the control of the series between Nashville and Vancouver. With the Canucks taking a 2-1 lead in the series thanks to Ryan Kesler’s overtime winner in Game 3, another Canucks win would send them back home one game away from moving on to the Western Conference final.

Vancouver @ Nashville – 8:30 p.m. ET (Versus)Vancouver leads series 2-1

Nashville will be hoping to turn their luck around in Game 4 and with it they’re hoping the referees will be a bit more helpful. At least that’s what coach Barry Trotz wants from them when it comes to some of the Canucks “gamesmanship” in helping them blow their whistles. The Predators got burned in Game 3 when Shea Weber was sent off for a questionable hooking call in overtime that led to the Canucks scoring on the man advantage and ending the game. The Predators will have to make due tonight without Steve Sullivan in the lineup meaning that either J.P. Dumont or Colin Wilson gets the start tonight. Sullivan is bothered by an ankle injury suffered in Game 3.

Vancouver is still looking to get Daniel and Henrik Sedin going offensively. The twins have struggled throughout the playoffs and even more so against Nashville. While Pekka Rinne is making life hard on all of Vancouver’s scorers, the Sedins are MVP-type players and they’re not playing like that in these playoffs. For Vancouver to shake off the doubters, they must step up their play or else they’ll be playing with fire as to whether or not they can win this round, never mind the Stanley Cup.

The highlight of this series though has been the goaltending showdown. Sure the play and the pace of the games might not be all that engaging, but the play of Rinne and Roberto Luongo has made it worthwhile. Two Vezina Trophy finalists doing their thing and making the job of goaltender look like the easiest job in the world with how they’re playing in this series. It’s not that easy, they’re just helping make it look glamorous. The Predators will have to play with some desperation tonight and make Luongo feel uncomfortable in net if they want to send this series back to Vancouver tied up. Otherwise they’ll be staring elimination in the face on Saturday night.

Stars need one more improbable run to complete improbable season

Stars Stanley Cup
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It would be easy at this point to write off Dallas Stars’ chances in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

They enter Game 5 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) facing a 3-1 series deficit to a steamroller of a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is clicking on all cylinders.

They need to find a way to win three games in a row against a team that has more regular season and playoff wins than anybody else over the past six years. Three wins in a row against team that has lost three games in a row on just five different occasions over the past three full seasons.

Not only that, but in the history of the league only one team has comeback from being down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, and it required a lot of madness and insanity for it to happen (read about it here).

The odds, clearly, are not in the Stars’ favor right now.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But when has that mattered in this NHL season, in this bubble, in this year? Especially for this Stars team that just keeps finding ways to surprise people.

It’s been easy to write this Stars team off all season. When they started the season 1-7-1 through their first nine games, no one would have blamed you for making them an afterthought and forgetting about the.

The same was true when they went through a sudden and shocking mid-season coaching change.

And it was true when they ended the regular season on a seven-game losing streak, and then lost two out of their three Round-Robin games in the Return To Play, all while looking like a complete inept offensive team.

It was a foregone conclusion to pretty much everyone outside of Dallas that Colorado was going to skate by them in the Second Round. Then when the Avalanche failed to beat them, it was just generally accepted the Stars’ luck would run out against Vegas. Wrong again! Both times!

Now here we are again in a position where it’s easy to say, yeah, they’re done.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

But twice this postseason the Stars have ended a series by winning three games in a row (Calgary and Vegas). Obviously the circumstances here are a little different (playing a better team, actually facing elimination with no margin for error) but they have done it before and in a variety of ways. They have found a way to score goals when needed, and they have also been able to lock things down or lean on their goaltending when needed.

If the first four games of this series have shown us anything it’s that they may need more of the latter approach to stay in this. Khudobin has cooled off considerably over the past few games, but he is absolutely capable of turning things around in the blink of an eye. In his two years with the Stars he has .923 save percentage in his 95 appearances (regular season and playoffs combined), which is one of the best marks for any goalie during that stretch. He helped single-handedly get them through the Vegas series. Does he have three more games like that in him?

No matter how they go about it, the Stars’ backs are clearly against the wall here. But that has been the case from the very start of the season and it has not yet stopped them.

They need to find a way to exceed the expectations one more time.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Steven Stamkos will not play in Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final

Stamkos Game 5
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If the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win the Stanley Cup on Saturday night they are going to have to win one more game without Steven Stamkos.

Coach Jon Cooper announced on Saturday that the Lightning captain will not be available for Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

Stamkos has played in just one game this postseason for the Lightning as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury and a core muscle injury that sidelined him in late February.

His lone appearance this postseason was the Lightning’s Game 3 win when he played just a little under three minutes, scoring a goal on his only shot of the game.

He spent the final 47 minutes of the Lightning’s 5-2 win seated on the bench.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

On Friday, Cooper announced that Stamkos would not play in Game 4 (which the Lightning won in overtime, 5-4) but that they were not ruling him out for the rest of the series.

If the Lightning win on Saturday night, they will win the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

The Lightning’s top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat has helped drive the offense in Stamkos’ absence, while they have also received massive contributions from their newly formed second line and their defense.

They are 17-6 in the Return To Play, with 16 of those wins coming without Stamkos in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

The Wraparound: Lightning a win away from capturing Stanley Cup

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• Lightning captain Steven Stamkos did not play in Game 4, but hasn’t been ruled out for the series.

• The Senators have placed Bobby Ryan on waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract.

SATURDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 5: Lightning vs. Stars (TB leads 3-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): Kevin Shattenkirk‘s goal 6:34 into overtime helped the Lightning top the Stars 5-4 in Game 4 Friday night. Tampa is now one win away from capturing the franchise’s second Stanley Cup title.

The power play winner came after a controversial tripping penalty call on Stars captain Jamie Benn.

“I don’t have a ton of time for a play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn and it has no real effect in the play, and Jamie breathes on him and the guy falls over,” said Joe Pavelski. “Whether that’s the case or not, there’s a little battle going on there, but it’s playoffs, it’s overtime. We expect 5-on-5. We expect to battle it out.”

”It’s two guys going for a loose puck. That’s a hockey play, that’s what I saw,” said interim head coach Rick Bowness. ”They’re hooking us and we’re fighting through the hook.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Lightning are now 7-1 in overtime this postseason. Only the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens (10), 2002-03 Anaheim Ducks (7), and 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes (7) have won as many OT games in a single playoff.

According to the NHL, this is the 35th time that a team has held a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven Cup Final. Only one team facing such a deficit has come back to win the series — the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost the first three games.

The question for Bowness is what to do in goal with a back-to-back. Anton Khudobin has allowed 13 goals on his last 95 shots faced. If Ben Bishop is healthy to play, do you throw him in with your season on the line?

“We’ll bounce back. I have full faith in our hockey club. It’s an unfortunate way to lose that game the way we battled back,” he said. “We’re going to play tomorrow like we did tonight.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary